The term “Staff Ride” is an internationally well-established term and is derived from a concept with foundations dating back to the Prussian Army. In the past century it has been used extensively by the US Army as a component of their officer development training program. Participants are no longer limited to “staff”, with Volunteers now also playing a significant role in bringing their unique perspective and experiences to this type of learning environment.
The Staff Ride (field case study) is an enhanced case study delivered in the field at the location of an actual historical incident, such as a fire or significant event. Unlike a simple historical tour, participants are provided the opportunity of “walking in the shoes of those involved”, and given the chance to analyse the fire ground or other incident area for themselves and make their own tactical decisions as to what they would have done in the same circumstances. This complements and builds on existing knowledge and experience of all fire agency personnel (volunteer and career) involved in decision making processes.
Participants are also challenged to push past the basic questions of "what happened" and examine the deeper questions of leadership, decision-making and human factors together with identifying opportunities to enable learning and professional growth for future events. By experiencing how other people make their decisions in complex, dynamic and changing situations participants develop a series of memory slides. They can then call upon these slides to help make robust decisions when faced with future unexpected events.
Sam Sunderland , Human Factors Advisor with the Incident Management Team and member of the Staff Ride Development Team, said “With every situation we find ourselves in we bring along personal biases gained over time through experiences that can affect our decision making, situational awareness, risk perception and leadership capacity. By examining the biases we bring to each circumstance and recognising their limitations we are better placed to make good decisions in time pressured and complex environment”.
The Cobaw Bushfire Staff Ride was developed by the Multi Agency Capability Committee which includes representatives from DSE, CFA, MFB and SES. The CFA IMT Training Project sponsors the development of this work. Attention is now turning to the identification and design of future Staff Rides to support the ongoing development of our incident management personnel.